30 Fringe Players Who Could Make a Late Push for USMNT World Cup Squad
With the U.S. men's national team only a few months away from the 2014 World Cup, the vast majority of roster spots on the U.S. squad have already been locked up by the team's regulars.
However, there are still a few spots in doubt and a number of "fringe" players who could still make a late push to get on the team.
At this point, it appears as if 21 spots on the 23-man roster are already accounted for. Barring injury or a major drop in form, goalkeepers Tim Howard, Brad Guzan and Nick Rimando will be going to Brazil. Defenders Matt Besler, Omar Gonzalez, Geoff Cameron, Fabian Johnson, DaMarcus Beasley, Brad Evans and Clarence Goodson appear to be locks.
The midfield will most likely include Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley, Mix Diskerud, Sacha Kljestan, Graham Zusi and Alejandro Bedoya. Finally, at striker and attacking center midfield, Landon Donovan, Eddie Johnson, Aron Johannsson, Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey have the inside track.
With two spots left, who still has a chance to work his way onto the USMNT's World Cup roster?
Here are 30 candidates.
While Tim Howard, Brad Guzan and Nick Rimando essentially have the three goalkeeper spots for the USMNT wrapped up, if any of them were to get injured before the World Cup, Sean Johnson would be the likely replacement.
Johnson started two games for the U.S. in 2013 and earned two shutouts. His play against Costa Rica in the Gold Cup was particularly impressive.
Like Sean Johnson, Tally Hall would only make the roster if one of the top three goalkeepers for the U.S. were hurt.
Hall is certainly on head coach Jurgen Klinsmann's radar and has been called into the last two January camps and this summer's May/June camp.
He was also the Houston Dynamo's MVP in 2013.
Most U.S. fans have likely forgotten, but when Jurgen Klinsmann first took over the USMNT, he declared Bill Hamid the team's No. 2 goalkeeper behind Tim Howard.
Since then, Hamid has been passed up by Guzan, Rimando and Johnson, but is still on Klinsmann's radar, having been called in for the last two January camps, the May/June camp, the Gold Cup and the Austria/Scotland friendlies in November.
John Anthony Brooks
The 20-year-old John Anthony Brooks has made a rapid push into the USMNT discussion, helping lead Hertha Berlin to promotion into the Bundesliga last year and making two starts for the U.S. this season against Bosnia and Austria.
He's struggled in the Bundesliga this season with injuries and form, but certainly has the talent needed to make the squad. He could even push Clarence Goodson out of one of the roster spots that are already "locked up."
Michael Orozco's value to the USMNT is that he can play as either a center-back or a right-back—the two positions on the team where the depth chart is the most open to interpretation.
Orozco got torched against Costa Rica as a right-back in World Cup qualifying in September, but most of the U.S. team looked poor on that night.
Orozco proved in the Gold Cup that he can be a solid option for the U.S., and he also has the ability to contribute on set pieces, as he did in the U.S.'s 3-2 win over Panama in October World Cup qualifying.
Shane O'Neill is a long shot to make the squad, but after Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez, the U.S.'s depth at center-back is murky at best.
O'Neill recently was called in for the team's January camp and had an outstanding season for the Colorado Rapids in 2013. If he has a strong camp this month and a good start to the 2014 MLS season, it's certainly possible.
Edgar Castillo made eight appearances for the USMNT in 2013, and if Jurgen Klinsmann counts Fabian Johnson as a midfielder on the U.S. roster, he will likely bring another left-back to Brazil in addition to DaMarcus Beasley.
Castillo has been bright going forward when playing for the U.S., but poor as a defender—not exactly what you want considering the U.S.'s opponents in the group stage. He may have some value coming on late for the U.S. when down a goal, but his defensive lapses are worrisome.
Many Americans still probably don't know who Greg Garza is, but they should. Garza plays for Tijuana in Liga MX, along with other U.S. hopefuls Herculez Gomez, Edgar Castillo, Joe Corona and Paul Arriola.
Garza can play as a left-back or left midfielder and has played 38 games for Tijuana over the last two seasons. In this week's Liga MX opener, he started over Castillo as Tijuana's left-back.
With one left-back spot likely still on the table, Seth Sinovic could have a chance. He has been a part of Sporting KC's outstanding defense the last two seasons and was recently called up by Jurgen Klinsmann for the U.S.'s January camp.
Chris Klute enjoyed a fantastic season in 2013, leading all MLS defenders with seven assists and being named the Colorado Rapids' Defender of the Year. He was also recently called up to the USMNT for the January camp.
Like Greg Garza and Seth Sinovic, Klute could sneak onto the roster with an impressive January camp if Jurgen Klinsmann isn't convinced that Edgar Castillo can get the job done as the U.S.'s backup left-back.
Despite being a regular in the Bundesliga with Nurnberg and earning 10 caps with the USMNT (eight in the Klinsmann era), Timmy Chandler has not been called into the squad since the U.S.'s disastrous performance in Honduras last February.
Chandler, besides playing regularly at the highest levels, can also play on both the left and right sides of the defense. Considering the U.S.'s lack of clear-cut depth at right-back especially, Chandler could easily make the squad if he can get back in Klinsmann's good graces.
Eric Lichaj came to prominence in the Bob Bradley era, but until November 2013, he couldn't seem to get the attention of Jurgen Klinsmann. Lichaj didn't play much in the November friendlies (picking up 21 minutes in two appearances), but his ability to play on either side of the back line is a plus.
DeAndre Yedlin came to the forefront of USMNT discussions due to his excellent rookie campaign with the Seattle Sounders and his performances in the U-20 World Cup.
He recently earned a call-up for the January camp, and with the U.S.'s uncertainty at right-back, anything is possible.
Many USMNT fans and pundits would say Michael Parkhurst is a long shot to make the team due to his lack of club playing time, but Parkhurst earned eight caps in 2013, including playing the entire second half of the U.S.'s World Cup qualifier against Mexico in September.
A year ago, Parkhurst was one of the U.S.'s best players in Europe, even earning a spot on the Champions League Team of the Week. A January transfer and regularly playing time could easily get him back in the mix.
Kyle Beckerman is oft-maligned among USMNT fans, but he's clearly one of Jurgen Klinsmann's favorites and could already have the inside track on a roster spot (he's on the "fringe" list because if Klinsmann only takes four center midfielders to Brazil, they're likely to be Bradley, Jones, Diskerud and Kljestan).
Beckerman proved in the Mexico game that he can handle big environments and earned 10 caps in 2013. If Beckerman were used in the World Cup, his ability and tendency to sit in front of the center-backs would also allow Michael Bradley to get more involved in the attack.
Because of his club situation, Maurice Edu isn't likely to be included in the squad, but a January transfer could change that. He was a regular in the Rangers midfield for two seasons before the club's financial problems forced through his move to Stoke City.
Edu earned three caps in 2013, including starting against Mexico in the U.S.'s World Cup qualifier at the Azteca.
Danny Williams was a regular for Jurgen Klinsmann in 2012, but entering 2013, he lost the faith of his manager at Hoffenheim and lost most of his playing time along with it. His international status faded as well, and he only earned one cap in 2013, starting for the U.S. in its World Cup qualifier against Honduras in February.
A summer move to Reading in the English Championship has Williams getting regular minutes again, and he could sneak his way back into the squad by next summer.
Fans of Stuart Holden saw their hopes dashed when Holden's fantastic USMNT comeback this summer was ended by yet another devastating knee injury.
Despite the injury, Holden himself has remained surprisingly upbeat and should be back in training with Bolton very soon. It's a long shot, but if Holden makes yet another comeback from injury, he could force his way onto Jurgen Klinsmann's squad.
Brek Shea showed during this summer's Gold Cup and on two separate occasions against Mexico that he can be an impact player for the USMNT off the bench. He doesn't play much for his club Stoke City (he's currently on a 28-day loan to Barnsley), but he's been a Klinsmann favorite from the beginning.
If Klinsmann decides he needs Shea's explosiveness on the U.S. bench, he'll be on the squad.
Jose Torres played five of the U.S.'s six games in this summer's Gold Cup and also offers a fair amount of versatility, as he can be played at left midfield, center midfield and even left-back.
He's a long shot to make the squad, but as a solid possession player and a Liga MX regular with Tigres, he's in the discussion.
Joe Corona was one of the U.S.'s brightest players during the Gold Cup, scoring two goals and impressing with his playmaking ability. He fell down the depth chart in the fall due to a lack of club playing time, but he's got a new coach at the club level and could easily work his way back into the fold for both club and country by the summer.
Brad Davis isn't the most dynamic player in the world. He doesn't have prolific speed or goalscoring ability. But what he does have is an excellent left foot.
Davis picked up two assists in the U.S.'s final World Cup qualifier against Panama, once again demonstrating how important his service from the flank could be for the USMNT.
Klinsmann has repeatedly given him chances to prove himself, and he will have another chance this month, as he was called into this year's January camp.
It's been a long time since Benny Feilhaber impressed in a USMNT uniform, but due to his strong play in the MLS playoffs, he will have a final chance in this year's January camp to prove that he is worthy of a spot on the team.
Feilhaber was a regular during the Bob Bradley era and has playmaking abilities that few in the U.S. pool possess. Now it's up to him to prove it to Klinsmann.
Luis Gil is a long shot to make the squad, but recently earned a call-up to the team's January camp due to his strong play with Real Salt Lake.
Gil was one of the U.S.'s few bright spots at the U-20 World Cup and will have a chance this month to prove his value to Klinsmann.
Julian Green is only 18 years old, but has already made his senior debut for European powerhouse Bayern Munich, making two appearances in this year's Champions League.
Green would have to file a one-time switch to play for the U.S., as he has represented the German national team in official youth competitions, but he knows Klinsmann is interested and the pull of playing in the World Cup may be too much to resist.
Mike Magee is a long shot to make the squad, especially considering the depth the U.S. has in the attacking positions, but Magee enjoyed his best season ever in 2013.
He scored 21 goals in Major League Soccer in 2013, earning for himself league MVP honors.
He was recently called into the U.S.'s January camp.
Chris Wondolowski certainly isn't a fan favorite, but head coach Jurgen Klinsmann continues to give him chances with the USMNT.
Wondo has been one of the most prolific scorers in MLS over the past four seasons and was recently called into this year's January camp.
Juan Agudelo hasn't shattered any goalscoring records at either the club or international level, but the ones he has scored have been impressive.
Agudelo has a level of technical proficiency that perhaps no other U.S. striker possesses and the audacity to try things no one else would dare.
He was on the initial January camp roster, but was quickly withdrawn. He has reportedly been seen in England, per World Soccer Talk, fueling speculation that he is about to make a transfer abroad.
Terrence Boyd is frequently called up to the USMNT, but rarely gets in games. He could easily land one of the last few remaining spots on the U.S. roster, but with so many options at forward in Jozy Altidore, Aron Johannsson, Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey and Eddie Johnson, it might be a waste of a pick.
Herculez Gomez was a USMNT regular before a knee injury in 2013 set him back. A fan favorite for his hard work up top, Gomez may be able to work his way back into the fold.
He's now back to full fitness and started the first game of the Liga MX Clausura for Tijuana this weekend.
Just for Fun: A Few More
All of the following players are off the USMNT radar for now, but with five months to go, anything could happen.
Steve Cherundolo has been one of the most consistent U.S. defenders for years, but a series of knee surgeries over the past year has kept him out of action for club and country. He's 34, but if he can get back to playing regularly, not only can he make the squad, he could potentially start for the USMNT in Brazil.
Few people would give Oguchi Onyewu a shot, although Jurgen Klinsmann apparently told Harry Redknapp that Gooch was "almost certainly" going to be part of the squad (Klinsmann was likely just telling Redknapp that so he would sign Onyewu to QPR).
Josh Gatt is recovering from an ACL injury, but should be back to playing with his club soon.
Chris Schuler was impressive in the second half of the MLS season with Real Salt Lake and probably missed a January camp call-up due to a recent foot surgery.
Will Packwood and Jonathan Spector, both with Birmingham in the English Championship, are capable right-backs who haven't been playing much recently due to injuries.
Tim Ream was once thought to be a future lock on the U.S. back line. He's struggled at the international level and in the EPL before Bolton was relegated, but was called up by Klinsmann for the U.S.'s game against Bosnia in August. Ream's also been getting regular playing time this season at center-back and left-back with Bolton in the English Championship.
Finally, Paul Arriola, who plays with Tijuana in Liga MX, has drawn comparisons from some to a young Landon Donovan. If he gets hot, who knows.
Follow me on Twitter @JohnDHalloran.
Follow me on Facebook www.facebook.com/AmericanTouchline.